Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Confessions of a Sometimes Worrywart

"And why do you worry . . . ? See how the lilies of the field grow.
They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. . . .
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow. . . . Each day
has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:28, 29, 34).

Now there’s something else to worry about.

Last week on the 14-hour ride back to Japan, it was the fact that I was on the window side of three seats in an every-seat-filled airplane. How was I going to get out to the bathroom? (No gritting my teeth and holding it for that long.) I refrained from bothering my neighbors until the whites of my eyes were yellow, and then I crawled over them and back again—literally. To make matters worse, I had to do that twice during the long flight.

Amazingly, the young Thai couple in their twenties didn’t get up even once throughout the half a day-plus that we were at the mercy of Delta Airlines. (I believe this must have something to do with the difference between our ages, but if I think about that too long I’ll have something else to worry about, so I’ll just ignore that thought and return to the original concern that prompted this writing.)

So what has me stewing? It’s the headline in this morning’s newspaper: “Dementia afflicting more younger people.” Suddenly I recall that I can’t get through my day without my “to do” list to remind me of all the important activities I might forget were it not for the memo—if I don’t lose it first. Just in case, I also have the family calendar where both Bernie’s schedule and mine are written, my personal desk calendar, and the absolutely vital date book I always carry in my backpack much as a drowning person grasps onto a floating object in the water to save her from going under. Unless I forget it on the kitchen table, of course.

According to the article, a report from the Health and Welfare Ministry based on data collected in fiscal year 2006 indicated that 3.7 people per 10,000 in Japan are suffering from juvenile dementia, defined as that which affects individuals under 65 years old. I’m barely into my 50s, so I smiled, knowing I was safe—until I read further. Other data collected from 2,000 medical and welfare institutions showed that 302 men and 159 women with an average age of 56 had been diagnosed with juvenile dementia. Ouch! Someone was coming way too close, invading my personal space, and stepping on my 53-year-old toes. Worse yet, the youngest sufferer was 21 years old!

Oh dear! Now those sentences that I can’t complete because I don’t remember what I started to say are blaring at me like the siren of the emergency vehicle that suddenly appeared right behind us yesterday on an impossible-to-pass, bumper-to-bumper Tokyo street. And there are also: misplaced items that show up eventually, but not when I most need them; words—both Japanese and English—that are on the tip of my tongue but refuse to make an appearance; and many times I want to retrieve something in another room, but can’t recall what it is by the time I get there. (I wish I could say that’s because we live in a huge mansion, but three rooms and a walk-in closet just don’t qualify.) Could I be the next card-carrying member of the Juvenile Dementia Club of Japan?

My blood pressure is on the rise and my palms are sweaty—until I remember a very good question Jesus once asked, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27). The answer, of course, is obvious. Properly chastised, I determine yet once again to quit worrying. There are far more enjoyable things to do with my time.